Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Global South's Emerging Tech Beat Generation

Nigeria's answer to Silicon Valley
by Dulue Mbachu
Mail and Guardian (South Africa)
March 14, 2006

LAGOS, Nigeria [MAP] -- Peddlers of pirated software now hold sway on the very streets where drug dealers and prostitutes plied their wares a decade ago in Nigeria's biggest city.

Otigba Street. Ola Ayeni Street. Even in the adjoining Pepple Street -- where renowned musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti had the popular venue where he smoked pot on stage. Every building in the Ikeja district is now packed with computer and cellphone ware, and business is also done on the streets...


We live on a planet where an extreme minority controls the production, distribution, and content of the world's technologies. That minority - overwhelmingly white, wealthy by global standards, and residing in politically stable nations - has been slow to share the fruit of the Information Age.

While the More Developed World grew fat and lazy off a steady diet of media players, game consoles, and mobile phones, the majority of the world's people have been left to starve on the few ICT scraps that have fallen from the table.

The assumption, in most developed nations, is that people in some of the world's poorest nations simply want the same ICT that their wealthier brothers and sisters.

Software piracy, like prostitution, drug trafficking, and scores of other Western no-nos, never arise simply out of want. I seriously doubt the majority of men, women, and children involved in the global sex trade turn tricks simply because they want to do so. Or that opium runners in Afghanistan and meth farmers in Indiana handle their wares simply because they enjoy it.

Things like black markets don't arise out of want. Want is a desire - one can do without what they want. Need, on the other hand... need is tied to survival.

Many prostitutes - voluntary or coerced - do what they do simply to survive. Prostitutes often turn tricks because of the social environs that put them on the thin line between life and death. People grow cocaine in rural Latin America not because they can't grow anything else; more often, the growing of these crops is tied to the possibility of murder or starvation.

The Digital Divide is not simply a gap between those who have information and communication resources they want and those who do not. It is a gap between those who have more than they need in terms of ICT and those struggling to meet their needs.

And like many mothers turn to prostitution to feed their children or countless farmers grow narcotics to save themselves from the bullet or machete, the world's Information Poor will turn to piracy to find ways of better educating their children, to build better lives, and to sustain their very existence.

The Digital Divide and other gaps between the information-haves and have-nots has very little to do with technology, the gadgets and toys we use to meet our desires. It does, however, have a whole hell of a lot to do with survival - of various cultures, ideas, and social betterment.

And people will steal, fight, and even kill simply to survive.

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cooper said...

I don't think that was the right link.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Oops...fixed :)

The ZenFo Pro said...

See, this is what happens when I get compliments...get sloppy.

You'd better come back from CR safe, else this blog will go completely to shit :)

Voodoo Child said...

Everyday we leave our work computers on overnight to esacpe a measley 2 minute load time. We use our computers to escape human contact, to remove ourselves from social situations and to "network" with hundreds and thousands of unknown persons 'just like us' that may or may not actually exist. On another continent they are struggling just to access viable information. I feel nauseated.

On the other hand, when Africa reaches a higher level of connectivity, would they be plagued with the 419 Scam?

Anonymous said...

"That minority - overwhelmingly white, wealthy by global standards, and residing in politically stable nations - has been slow to share the fruit of the Information Age"

Preach it, brother! Its about time ppl started talking about bringing this muthafuckin system down Just more slavery with technology as the chains.